Fellow Spotlight: Rowland Mjumira Testing Technologies in Malawi

Rowland Mjumira, NEST360 Monitoring and Evaluation Officer and NEST360 fellow, was joined by the Houston team in Malawi to work on BreathAlert and Celsi Monitor at Queen Elizabeth Central Hospital in Malawi. This article has been cross-posted on NEST360.org.


Figure 1: Rowland, Maureen, David, Josh, Betsy, and Shababa


My name is Rowland Mjumira. I was born in Mangochi and graduated from the Malawi University of Science and Technology in Biomedical Engineering in 2019. I have been working on evaluation and validation studies, starting with the BiliSpec validation and then evaluating a continuous neonatal temperature monitor, Celsi Warmer, and warming mattress for low-resource settings. I am also involved in usability testing of the NEST bundle.

Conducting clinical trials in Malawi

Since I joined NEST360 in 2021, I have conducted clinical trials mainly at the largest referral hospital in Malawi, Queen Elizabeth Central Hospital (QECH). I have also done usability studies at Zomba Central Hospital, where we focused on Syringe Pumps, and Mangochi District Hospital for Celsi Warmer and Syringe Pumps. In addition, I perform my day-to-day work in Chanthikha Neonatal Unit, QECH.

By the end of the day, my work is to ensure that I enroll participants, test samples, and monitor treatment or device performance. Then I update, analyze data, and give a report to the study team in both Malawi and Houston. It is so thrilling to say that one of the products I was part of now has a CE marking (BiliDx) and is ready for implementation in low-resource countries. I cannot wait to see nurses using this low-cost point of care device to test bilirubin levels in neonates.

Working with my Houston colleagues

In my first project (then called BiliSpec, now BiliDx), I worked with Alyssa Shapiro (Rice360 PhD student) and Rice360 Technology Translation Managers Ryan Johnston and Taylor Boles. My work with Taylor occurred virtually due to travel restrictions. When Taylor was in Malawi, we had a wonderful time meeting each other and collaborating face-to-face. Also, when Taylor and Sonia Sosa (Clinical Research Engineer) visited during the Celsi Warmer trial, it was great to work with my colleagues in person.

I have also worked with Elizabeth (Betsy) Asma, Rice360 Director of Technology Development, in usability studies at QECH. Betsy came with the team of Rice fellows from Houston with whom I had a wonderful experience. Firstly, Shababa Martin (I called her Malawian Girl lol because she pronounces Malawian words as a native) –we spent much time conducting usability studies for bilirubinometers, temperature monitors, and conductive warmers. Then with David Kimmey (We had fun speaking Chichewa and Spanish together) and I conducted Celsi Warmer formative usability study. I also worked with Josh Coyle under BreathAlert.

Working with Rice360 has been amazing. Professionally I have learned many things relating to biomedical engineering and global health. I have had an opportunity to connect with people from various professions. I acquired skills I could hardly learn without this collaboration with the Houston team, ranging from medical design, conducting clinical trials, especially planning to ensure that everything is ready before implementation, calibration, documentation, and reporting, to analyzing data using various software.

It was great and fulfilling to work with partners from Houston. When Sonia and David first visited, we worked so well as a team and built a strong relationship. Apart from working, we visited various restaurants, the favorite ones being Flavors and Caffe Grazia.